My First Triathlon: Second Leg

1445 1445_ () 1445 1445 Here is the (too long awaited?) second installment of thoughts on my first triathlon. You can read Part I right here.

The second part of a triathlon is the bike. It’s the part of the race that everyone says is the easiest — everyone who has not done a triathlon anyway.

Whenever I’d discuss the race with others, the possibility of being ready for a triathlon, there was this common understanding that the biking portion was the gimme.

“How hard can it be,” we’d say. “You sit on a bike and move your legs.”

But my friend Kay knew. This being her second tri, she was painfully aware of how tough the second leg is. She took that laid-back approach with the bike in her first race several years ago and she had not forgotten.

At one point, as I discussed details with her, I remember saying something like “I’m just wanting to get past the swimming part, and I think it will be easy from there.” She absolutely disagreed. In fact, she put at least as much effort, if not more, into training on her bike. And it paid off — she did great.

Here is what I suggest, what I did, but did too little too late: get a trainer to hook onto your bike. Ride your bike at home, and then as you train a little more, do a few bricks here and there — ride your bike and then get off and run for a bit. These are called bricks because that’s what your legs will feel like when you start to run.

When I pulled myself out of the water, I was tired. I felt like I was barely moving up the beach towards the transition area. I wondered how I would put on my shoes and get on a bike. “Oh well,” I thought, “at least I’ll be sitting.”

When I think back to those first moments on the bike, it still makes me a bit antsy, a little unnerved. I was wearing the horribly uncomfortable shirt (the great athletic shirt that wicked water away from my body and then held on tight to it until I changed my shirt several hours later). I dragged myself to my station, slipped on my shoes, put on my helmet and started to push my bike up towards the starting area. You cannot mount the bike until you’re out of the transition area and at the start line.

I had pictured the bike ride as something really relaxing. I’ll have almost an entire hour to myself, I thought with glee. I got that right — I was indeed alone. The main herd of bikers were of course well ahead of me, in large part because of my strategy of being last in the water. I was fine with that. But I certainly didn’t make up very much time on this leg of the race. The bike portion was long and exhausting, way more than I bargained for. Even though I’d spent some time riding my bike, I was nowhere near a good level of readiness.

I remember getting on the course and pulling out of the state park onto the main road that was most of the biking portion. I looked ahead to see the very steep first hill and for a split-second I thought about turning back. What have I gotten myself into, I thought. Because I suddenly realized that there would be tall hills and I could not get off this bike and push it. I was in this for the long haul.

The biking went on forever, I won’t lie. There were moments when it was easy and fun (the downhills?) and tough moments when I thought about crying but just didn’t have it in me.

Things I recommend: bike shorts. Here is where those triathlon pants they sell are worth the effort to track down. Anything made for this race is a must. I simply pulled on my running shorts over my bathing suit and it wasn’t enough. Also, I borrowed my sister’s awesome hybrid road/mountain bike, but it seems to me you really need just a road bike. The tires on my sister’s bike were nice and skinny, but the frame of the bike still had me a bit more upright than is comfortable for that length of time. My back and neck starting aching after awhile; perhaps if I’d done more on-road practice, this wouldn’t have been the case.

Paul ended up losing a bunch of time on the bike portion. He had a great swim and a great run, but also made the mistake of treating the bike as an afterthought. The day before the race he called a friend who has a great road bike but it didn’t work out to borrow it. He sort of just threw his mountain bike on the back of the car the night before. “I could have at least oiled the chain,” he said later.

Ending analysis: biking turned out to be a much greater challenge than I had anticipated. I highly recommend taking this portion seriously.

The nice thing was after 13 miles of riding in a wet stretchy tank top with legs rubbing on the seat, the 5K was suddenly something to look forward to. It fact, while pushing myself on that bike mile after mile, getting off the bike and running for three miles didn’t sound too bad at all. 1445″> .